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March 13, 2012

Trip Report - Reporting from Rondonopolis, Mato Grosso, Brazil

After traveling through the states of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, Parana, Mato Grosso do Sul, and southern Mato Grosso here are my thoughts about the soybean and corn crops.

Rio Grande do Sul - Soybeans

  • There are many areas of northwestern Rio Grande do Sul where the soybeans are really, really, bad. These are probably some of the worst soybeans I have seen in Brazil during the thirty years I have been doing this.
  • There are countless fields where the soybeans are a foot tall or less and with very few pods. Literally, some of the fields won't pay for the cost of harvesting. Even if they do try to harvest the soybeans, the plants are so short that it will be difficult to get them across the cutter bar and into the combine. The worst fields also have poor seed quality.
  • The early soybeans were impacted the most and they were already maturing when the recent rains moved across the state, so the rains were no help for the early maturing soybeans.
  • The later planted soybeans are much better and they are now filling pods and the recent rains will help the crop.
  • The further east you go in the state, the better the crop.
  • I would rate the soybean crop in the state as about: 50% very poor, 25% poor, 15% average, and 10% good.
  • Farmers are already harvesting and I would estimate that 5% has been harvested.
  • The latest estimate from the state extension service was that 40% of the crop had been lost, but I think it is going to be more than that.

Parana -Soybeans

  • The soybeans in Parana are not as bad as in Rio Grande do Sul, but they still have the same type of problems.
  • The early maturing soybeans were impacted the most and are very short, less than knee high with low yields.
  • The later maturing soybeans are better, but that is the minority of the crop and the yields for the later maturing soybeans will only be average at the best. The later soybeans were helped by the recent rains, but that is only maybe 20% of the crop in the state.
  • There are combines in the fields everywhere in the state and I would estimate that maybe 40% of the crop is already harvested.
  • The latest estimate from the state government is that the soybean crop will be down by 10-15%, but in my opinion, it is going to be a lot more than that.

Mato Grosso do Sul - Soybeans

  • The soybeans in the state have the same problem as in Parana and Rio Grande do Sul, the early maturing soybeans were impacted the most and the early soybeans are very short (less than knee high) and very low yielding.
  • So many of the soybeans are less than knee high and the combines we saw in the fields had to craw along very slowly trying to get the stunted plants into the combine.
  • The later soybeans looked OK, but they are the minority of the crop in the state.

Southern Mato Grosso - Soybeans

  • The early soybeans in the state are once again very short, less than knee high and very low yielding. Most of the early soybeans have already been harvested.
  • The later maturing soybeans look OK, but only with average yield potential at best.
  • The soybeans in southern Mato Grosso are probably some of the better soybeans we saw on this trip.
  • The latest estimate from Conab is that the yields in the state will be equal to last year, but that is never going to happen. Private estimates have the yields down 2% to 5%, but I would say it is probably more like 5% to 10% less than last year.

Brazil Soybean Crop Summary - Worse Than Anticipated

The soybean crop in Brazil is much worse than I had anticipated especially in Rio Grande do Sul. In most areas, a lot of the early soybeans have already been harvested and they were the worst by far. The number of fields I saw that I would classify as good to excellent was very few indeed. Recent rains did help the later maturing soybeans, but more rain going forward would be of limited benefit.

My current estimate for the Brazilian soybean crop is 68.0 million, but I think I might be 1-2 million tons too high. I have to see some other areas before I make a final decision, but it is likely that I will lower my Brazilian soybean estimate in the future.

Brazil Full-Season Corn

In the areas where we traveled most of the full season corn had already been harvested and the fields that remained looked very poor, short in height with poorly filled ears. We saw a few farmers harvesting corn, but most were focused on harvesting their soybeans. The earliest corn was the worst and the later the corn was planted, the better it was (see picture). The full-season corn crop in Brazil is a huge disappointment.

Brazil Safrinha Corn -Hugh Increase in Acreage, Crop Looks Very Good

  • There is an unbelievable amount of safrinhacorn being planted in Brazil.
  • I thought most of the safrinhacorn looked really good. The height varies from just being planted to some corn that is already chest high. It is dark green in color and showing very little signs of stress.
  • The rains over the last few weeks really helped the corn crop.
  • We saw some fields in Parana where the plant population was spotty, but some of the missing corn is now emerging after the rains of the last two weeks.
  • The safrinhacorn was just the opposite of the soybeans; it was a pleasant surprise how good it looked.

Brazil Corn Crop Summary - Potentially Huge Safrinha Crop

If the weather cooperates, and that is a big if, Brazil could have a bin-busting safrinhacorn crop. I thought the crop looked much better than I had anticipated and the recent rains really helped the crop.

My current estimate for the Brazilian corn crop is 58.0 million tons and I do not intend to lower it in the future. In fact, if the weather cooperates for the next two months, I will probably have to raise the estimate.

Brazil Double Cropping Becoming More Complex

  • I have never seen such a wide variation of different types of double cropping in Brazil.
  • The primary type of double crop is safrinhacorn after soybeans, but there are many others including:
    • Corn planted after corn
    • Soybeans planted after soybeans
    • Cotton planted after soybeans
    • Corn planted after dry beans
  • There are so many types of double crop scenarios that you see soybeans that have already been harvested and soybeans that are just being planted. Much of the full-season corn has already been harvested, but you see corn filling grain, corn pollinating, corn chest high, and corn just now being planted.
  • The entire cropping sequence in Brazil is becoming more complex.